13 Historical Fiction Novels That Will Help You Escape To Hawaii, Madrid, And Brazil

by Kerri Jarema

The sun is shining, the weather is warm, and I'm looking to escape the rest of the world for a little while. It's one one thing to take a social media break and chill out on the obsessive news reading, but if you're toting along a book set in current times, it's pretty much guaranteed that you won't get those same escapist feels you might if you picked up a juicy new historical fiction book. Sure, many of these books are filled with their own specific political and social dramas, but the best part about them is you get to indulge in the all of the page-turning drama with none of the IRL personal investment — which, if you're anything like me, is exactly what you're looking for from your TBR this summer.

The 13 books below are all new historical fiction novels set in various time periods, and have tons of romance, family drama, coming-of-age plots and interesting tidbits about times gone by. If you want to get lost in the season, forget about whatever is trending on Twitter or splashed across the front page of the New York Times for a while, these books might just be exactly what you need.

'The Summer Wives' by Beatriz Williams

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound as a naive 18 year old, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. Uneasy among her step-sister Isobel's privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. But a catastrophe will soon shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility.

Click here to buy.

'Love and Ruin' by Paula McLain

In 1937, 28-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend.

Click here to buy.

'Boardwalk Summer' by Meredith Jaeger

Summer, 1940: When Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss Bathing Beauty, she’s determined to see herself on the silver screen. But Violet’s pageant victory comes with a price. Summer, 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives in a seaside cottage that belonged to her grandfather. There, Mari discovers her grandfather’s connection to a beauty queen who died too young. She embarks on a journey that uncovers his lifelong secret— a story that will forever transform her.

Click here to buy.

'Shadow Child' by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were inseparable. But when they're shattered by a betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever — until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana's lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.

Click here to buy.

'The Way of Beauty' by Camille Di Maio

Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera’s life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo’s new wife, Pearl, has defied her family’s expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement. In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend… and a stirring new cause of her own.

Click here to buy.

'The Summer I Met Jack' by Michelle Gable

In 1950, a Polish refugee arrives in Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is dazzled by them, especially the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack. Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his father forbids the marriage. A decade later, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the 35th President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.

Click here to buy.

'Another Side of Paradise' by Sally Koslow

In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is fading. But the once-famous author, desperate to pen scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own.

Click here to buy.

'The Subway Girls' by Susie Orman Schnall

In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities. Seventy years later, advertising executive Olivia's making a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency — and it results in the historic Miss Subways campaign.

Click here to buy.

'The Lost Family' by Jenna Blum

In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women. Then June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, and over the next 20 years, the sadness of Peter's past will overshadow their lives, transforming them in shocking ways.

Click here to buy.

'Lilac Girls' by Martha Hall Kelly

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday's world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland. Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. Ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, takes a government medical position and finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of the Nazis. When the unthinkable happens, the lives of these three women are set on a collision course.

Click here to buy.

'The Things We Don't Say' by Ella Carey

Nearly 60 years before the start of the novel, artist Patrick Adams painted his most famous work: a portrait of his beloved Emma Temple. Years after Patrick’s death, Emma still has the painting hanging over her bed. To Emma’s granddaughter, Laura, the portrait is a symbol of so much to come. The masterpiece is serving as collateral to pay Laura’s tuition for music school. But the impossible happens when an appraiser claims the painting is a fraud.

Click here to buy.

'The Masterpiece' by Fiona Davis (Aug. 7)

It is 1928, and 25-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue. But she has no idea that she'll soon be blindsided by the Great Depression. In 1974, the terminal is full of grime and crime. But when Virginia Clay stumbles upon an abandoned art school, she embarks on a quest to save Grand Central and solve the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared in 1931.

Click here to buy.

'The Air You Breathe' by Frances de Pontes Peebles (Aug. 21)

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, and Dores quickly bond over their love of music. Their passion will become the source of their friendship and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one is destined to be a star.

Click here to buy.